Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Review


It’s time to finally take a look at the latest Marvel installment, Shang Chi. This one’s been getting a lot of hype for the hand to hand fights and it delivers on this. It’s got a great balance of action and humor so in the end this movie has a ton of replay value. You’ll have a blast from start to finish as you go through the journey.

The movie starts by introducing us to Shang Chi’s father Wenwu as he wipes out army after army. The opening scene is like something out of Dynasty Warriors as he can use his rings with such speed that it appears to be a forcefield which blocks incoming arrows. That was definitely implemented really well. After that he ends up meeting Wenwu and they get married. Shang Chi and Xu Xialing are born and we then cut to the present.

Shang Chi and his best friend Katy work for a hotel as they drive cars around and enjoy their job. They have a good bond of friendship going for them but Katy’s family want more for her. One day the two of them are attacked by a group of assassins. Shang Chi fights them off but not before they steal his pendant. This means that Xu may be the next target so the two head off to go and help protect her. Can they protect her from this group led by Shang Chi’s father or is she already doomed?

Right off the bat the opening fight scene in the modern day sets the tone well. It’s really good with minimal use of cutaways so you can follow the choreography. Even as someone who did think that the Black Widow fights were really good, it’s night and day compared to this one. The hand to hand is very high energy and the train fight is probably my favorite fight in the film. Likewise, Widow’s first big action scene was my favorite so I guess I just really like the way these films tend to open. they’re doing it right, that’s for sure.

The battles continue to be solid throughout the movie though. Whether it’s the fight on the roof top or the climactic showdown, you can always expect a lot of hype. While this is usually more of an anime movie trend, the movie even decides to go for a little Godzilla type action at the end. It’s not quite as solid as the rest of the fights but it’s always good to see the creatures getting some hype. I’d consider the battle before that to be the true final battle for the combat while this is more of a general climax.

The effects are definitely on point as well. The creatures have really epic designs and lighting for their attacks. I also like the way the rings are used in combat. It’s very much in the style of what you would see in the Tron films. It’s a very versatile weapon and if Shang Chi keeps those to use in combat for future films he is going to be very tough to beat. Certainly none of the street level fighters can handle him.

As for Shang Chi himself, he’s definitely a great lead. I did see some talk about him being too merciless and going for the kill, but I definitely didn’t see that. For the most part each fight is always from a self defense angle. Yeah you’ve got enemies being thrown out of buildings and moving buses but there’s no easy alternative there since he’s in the middle of a huge fight. So just putting my two cents into the ring to say that Shang Chi was definitely a full hero here and I didn’t find him to be going too far in any of the fights.

He does have a moment where he nearly does cross the line and the film’s clear in showing that he was about to, but ultimately he doesn’t. That would be the only true example you can use. His upbringing and origin do explain this fairly well though and he certainly had to deal with a lot. All in all, I thought he handled his past and present really well. Shang Chi’s the kind of guy you definitely want to have in your corner at all times. The movie also did a great job of showing just how good he is at hand to hand combat. Throughout the whole film it’s fair to say that he didn’t lose any fights straight up from the present and beyond. He always had the upper hand.

In the comics he was known as the greatest hand to hand fighter for a long time. I don’t know about currently, but at least in the days when I was reading comics. I imagine the films will be going that route too so this was a great way to show it. I look forward to seeing him interact with the other characters because he has a lot of good banter with Katy in this movie as well. Shang Chi’s very charismatic and that’s why I would put him as the best character in the film. Ultimately he really excels in all of his roles.

Katy is also a solid heroine. She has a lot of fun lines as well and knows not to take things too seriously. In general the film had a really fun script for all of the characters but in particular Katy is one of the characters that stands out. She even gets to contribute towards the end of the movie in an action setting which is nice.

Shang and Katy also have two friends in the film who only appear for two scenes but both are worth mentioning. It’s nice seeing the characters openly talk about their heroic exploits and everything rather than trying to hide them like you would expect. It’s a nice turn of events and it’s such a big contrast to how Peter Parker is handling the whole situation. Yeah the situations are a wee bit different I’ll grant you, Shang has less people he needs to worry about. Still, it’s a very Iron-Man type move which is always fun.

As for Wenwu, he’s definitely a very solid main villain. The movie’s going for more of a sympathetic vibe for him sort of like Thanos. Ultimately he did try to put his weapons away at one point and suffered the consequences for it so you can see why he never takes the rings off anymore. Honestly he probably never should have taken them off but that’s more of a hindsight thing and he was trying to do his best. So in the present you can definitely root for him because if there was even the slightest chance that he was correct then he had to check for himself.

So I don’t blame him for going as far as he did and that’s what makes him a high quality villain. He can also fight really well which is also nice to see. Old age hasn’t really hurt him in a lot of ways, he’s thousands of years old and still kicking. His wife Ying may only appear in flashbacks but she definitely looks really good as well. I liked her fighting style and the powers she used were quite impressive. It’s a shame that the powers can’t follow you out of the village because with them she would have been extremely hard to defeat. Her meeting/battle with Wenwu was a great way to introduce her.

Then you have Xu who is also solid. She did well to build her own empire for underground fights. I question how she is able to get in some heavyweights like Wong and Abomination but maybe there are a lot of benefits to being in the tournament. As a slight power levels issue, I do think the Abomination looked way too weak here. I’d like to say it’s a different Abomination to be honest. That’s my little head canon in case he never appears again because otherwise that scene did make me shake my head a bit. There are a lot of ways the fight could have had the same outcome but I wanted to tell the film to check it’s route at that moment.

It’s the only scene I questioned in that case though. All of the fights were presented well and everyone got their time to shine. Back to Xu, she definitely proved herself very well in a fight. Her skills may be a touch below Shang’s but they’re still quite formidable. She’s definitely not an opponent you want to underestimate.

In general the film had a fairly stacked cast and that’s definitely a big part of why the film is so solid. Even the side characters are fairly memorable like one of Wenwu’s main subordinates who is missing a hand. He’s definitely a solid minion. There’s also Trevor who does have an effective opening scene but I will say that he’s best in small doses. I don’t think you really needed him in the film after a little while.

All right, now these next 3 paragraphs will quickly be for spoilers. If you haven’t seen the film yet or the recent MCU shows then definitely skip these three paragraphs. It’s going to be time to do a little speculating here. All right, so I’ve noticed a bit of a trend here. In Wandavision we saw Scarlet Witch as the main villain as she knowingly tortured a whole town of civilians and by the end of the show she’s getting sucked into the DarkHold. In the Cap & Winter Soldier show, we found out at the very end that Sharon is actually compromising the U.S. intelligence for money and is a fairly reputable information broker in the under world. Finally in the Loki show we see Sylvie turn to the darkness at the very end and set course for a new timeline. (At best you could say she just made a dubious call and isn’t as downright evil as the first two but it’s a tough case to make) Here, we end the film with Xu taking over the 10 Rings instead of disbanding them for presumably shady reasons.

You can cut Xu some slack but if this trend is anything to go by, she will be a villain soon. So, what is going on here? Are these all isolated incidents or is something going on here? Personally, I think it’s going to be something like the MCU version of the Sinister Six. It’s going to be a group of 6 female villains who band together to take over the world or something. Wanda brings the power, Sharon has the intel, Xu has the manpower, and Sylvie has more magic which is never a bad thing. For the trend to continue, we’ll need to see if some other players are introduced in Eternals, She Hulk, Spider-Man, or Dr. Strange. Still, it does seem like something’s going on.

Also, while Nick Fury was the main figure head for the first few phases as he connected everything, it seems more and more like that will now be the role for Dr. Strange. He’s going to have a role in the Spider-Man film, Wong is here in Shang Chi setting up some future elements, and you’ve also got the Dr. Strange film coming up. Seems like the Sorcerer Supreme is going to have to start earning his paycheck as the ultimate sorcerer with everyone messing around in the universe. It’ll definitely be interesting to see how that unfolds. End spoilers

I can’t close out the review without also mentioning that the soundtrack was really solid. There were a lot of great tunes here and so I thought the music selection was absolutely on point. The scene of the guy stepping out of the car only for us to see that it wasn’t Shang Chi was also a good fake out. Again, the film’s humor was always on point so even when there weren’t big fight scenes you were having a lot of fun.

Overall, Shang Chi definitely lives up to the hype here and is a great film in this phase of the MCU. I really didn’t have any issues with it and I’m certainly ready to see him start appearing in more of the films going forward. Shang Chi could easily work as one of the central figures going forward since I can see him having good banter with just about anyone. There’s still a whole lot you can do with the Ten Rings as well and we’ll see which film is the first to connect to this one. It’s the MCU so you can bet that there are a lot of plans in the works. If you haven’t seen this film yet then you’ll definitely want to change that.

Overall 8/10

Loki Review


The next Disney+ show is now upon us. Can it continue the upwards trend of each show? I would say yes and that this is the best of the first 3. Loki’s always been a pretty fun character so it makes sense that he could hold his own show pretty well. Throw in time travel, dimension hopping, and you’ve got yourself a pretty fun premise. There’s definitely a lot to unpack here even if the show is only 6 episodes so they did a good job of throwing in a bunch of concepts. Lets start taking a deep dive into this.

The show starts with Loki’s escape from Endgame where he narrowly got away from the Avengers. Unfortunately this was short lived as he is then kidnapped by the TVA. He is approached by a man named Mobius who explains that this organization is effectively in charge of the multiverse. They make sure that nobody messes with time and they keep things progressing in the way they ought to go.

Put it this way, according to the TVA, all of life is predestined to go in a certain way. If a character so happens to defy destiny and step off the path, they go to that world and destroy not only the character but the entire timeline. Rinse and repeat as often as is necessary. As the characters are not aware of their destinies either, this just happens randomly and must be quelled. If a timeline goes too far off the beaten path, it will cause calamity and destroy everything. Now you may question why TVA even bothers to erase individual characters when they will immediately erase the entire timeline right after. It’s a fair question and one that is addressed by the end.

Mobius basically asks Loki to join them. They are on the hunt for a particularly dangerous Loki variant (“Variant” is any being who has gone off of the natural timeline) and they could really use his help. After all, who better to stop a Loki than another Loki right? It’s not exactly a proposition that Loki really likes but he’s not exactly in a good spot right now. If he declines then he will be erased. Loki will play their game for now but he vows to be the one who wins in the end.

So right there you’ve got a pretty interesting angle. This is the kind of show with a lot of twists and turns but I’ll leave those to the spoiler paragraphs since it’s naturally more fun to see those play out if you don’t know what is going to happen. Most of the show is about the gang trying to get on the other Loki’s trail but it’s difficult. The TVA may have been around for a while but most of their members are normal humans so they aren’t the most powerful group around.

Lets get the basics out of the way first. The soundtrack here is really good. It’s easily the best out of the 3 with some really ominous themes going for it. You’ve got different remixes as well. The special effects are also on point with all of the magic being thrown around here. The Loki show lends itself well to this kind of thing that’s for sure. The fight scenes are also pretty solid.

Now, I would argue that Loki looks a bit too weak at times though. He struggles against humans on multiple occasions. The TVA beats him up in the first episode, he gets wrecked by a mind controlled human 1-2 episodes from there, and then he gets overpowered on a train and thrown out the window. There are many other times he gets owned as the series goes on but these were the 3 that are the most striking. Yes, Loki has been used as a comedic character for quite a while now but I would say this is stretching it.

Loki is still a frost giant raised as an Asgardian. He should have more than enough power to easily dispatch these opponents. Still, as a character he’s fun. Loki gets a lot of constant witty dialogue throughout his appearances so you can always bet on him saying something smart. The humor is a large part of what makes the show so much fun. He also gets a lot of personality development as well.

I don’t agree with all of it like Loki saying he doesn’t actually want to cause people pain and all of that. You’ll find yourself rolling your eyes a bit during his confession scene with Mobius where he talks about how he’s misunderstood and all that. I don’t buy it…nobody buys it. Like Mobius I’d just pull out the scene of him zapping that poor guy’s eyeball from Avengers 1. Loki’s defense is that it was an act that he was even playing on himself…sure. I think this is trying to retroactively make him less evil but whether he was tricking himself or not, he was totally evil at the time. I don’t think there can be any doubts about that.

On the other hand, I do like that he gets some closure with Freya in this version and that it’s part of what starts setting him off on a different track. Ultimately, acceptance by his family was something he really strived for. If things had played out differently he could have been a hero someday. Since he now knows how the adventure would have ended for him, it makes sense that he would start looking at life in a different way. By the end of the series or even fairly early on into it, you already feel like he’s becoming more heroic. Not sure I’d call him a full hero just yet but he’s close to it. I mean…he’s already more heroic by the end of the series than Scarlet Witch who is an Avenger soo………just something to think about.

It was fun to see clips of pretty much every old film Loki was in as well. Thor 2 seemed to be the only one that was skipped over a lot except for what happened to Freya. Maybe there just weren’t enough really good Loki scenes to pull. It’s been a while since I saw that film but I feel like there should still be a good amount.

Loki definitely carries a lot of the show with how much fun he is, but he does have a lot to work with. Mobius is another main character and he’s really solid. The guy has a fairly sarcastic attitude towards everything and he tends to have the best conversations with Loki. The two of them really go at it on different occasions. Mobius usually has the edge thanks to the TVA tech but otherwise Loki has the edge in overall charisma.

Mobius is old and set in his ways but you have to give him credit for eventually getting up and actually starting to take a hard look at what is going on. He’s certainly more dedicated than the average worker at the TVA. By the end he was one of the best characters. Then you have Ravonna who is one of the higher ups who serves the mysterious head of the TVA. She’s very by the books which naturally means things will be a bit dicey for her here.

Ravonna starts out better than how she ends up. She was acting pretty questionable by the end and that’s a weakness of being by the books. She was unable to adapt while everyone else was. I’ll be interested to see where she goes from here since in theory her next appearance will really be a fresh start. Then you have B-15 who seriously needs a real name. She was pretty solid. Right now she has a bodyguard type of role where she dishes out a lot of damage but doesn’t have too much personality yet. I expect she will have a bigger role going forward though. She already has a lot of confidence which is good.

While not a character, I wanted to give Miss Minutes a quick shoutout. This mascot is very amusing and works well in the TVA atmosphere. Her job is to constantly yell propaganda at everyone 24/7 through all of her TV shows and things like that. The tech behind her also seems very advanced. Naturally I would advise not believing anything she says but maybe the big trick is that what she is saying is actually legit. Who knows right? Either way you won’t be forgetting her anytime soon.

Then you have Sylvie, who is a variant that gets a pretty huge role in the series. She is pretty powerful which is why she is considered to be such a threat. In her first appearances she manages to take down quite a few TVA agents. She’s a fun enough character and is quite determined to achieve her goal. By the end of the series you have to decide if you’re on her side or not and that’ll probably determine how much you like her as a villain. I thought she did a pretty good job in the role.

Finally you have the leader of the TVA. Throughout the series they hype him up which makes sense since the guy running this whole multiversal company has to be pretty solid right? He knows everything that’s going to happen and as a result he is always at the top of the ranks. A cosmic being like that can always be a bit hit or miss depending on how powerful you find them to be. He’s interesting but I wouldn’t say that I’m a big fan. He’s certainly not much of a fighter and that never helps a character’s chances in my book.

I would say the show’s biggest weak point is the romance though. It just doesn’t work at all. I’ve always found it hard to believe that two characters would fall for each other so easily and in Loki there is just no time for the characters to really learn about each other. Loki and Sylvie know each other for a few days at best before this starts up. You could definitely have had the whole adventure without the romance if you ask me and it would have probably worked better. Just have them be friends who understand each other in a way most could not. Since they are effectively the same person in different timelines, that could be a great way for them to empathize with each other. Would have made for a better dynamic.

Okay, it’s time we enter spoiler territory so tread the following grounds only if you have seen the show already or don’t mind spoilers. It’s time to really talk about what went down in the final episodes. While I would say the Cap and Winter Soldier didn’t really have a lot of twists in the end, this one’s like WandaVision where a whole lot happens in the second half. At only 6 episodes you expect a fast pacing of course but one impressive thing has been how big the effects of the shows are. Now to an extent you expect a lot of things to wrap up so people who are film only won’t be lost. WandaVision goes in a way where if you missed it, I get the feeling that you will still be okay. Likewise you can probably handle this in a similar way so you shouldn’t get your hopes too high but it certainly does change the game quite a bit.

So the TVA is basically a front for Kang (Kudos to the people who figured he was the head of the TVA from the start) as he tries to stay master of the timelines. See, he created them because without the TVA, a Kang ends up being born in all timelines and they inevitably fight for control in the end. With the TVA he is able to prevent any other Kang from being born. So it’s not that he prevents all timelines from splitting, he only stops this one outcome. It serves as a good way to add purpose to the organization and show that they don’t just act randomly.

It doesn’t change the idea that the TVA is a villainous organization though. They are openly brainwashing people to follow them and erasing entire timelines. This may be to stop the greater evil as they would say but the end doesn’t justify the means. They are still wiping out a bunch of people on a daily basis. So at the end Loki and Sylvie are given two options. Destroy Kang and dismantle the TVA or assume the throne and keep the status quo going. Naturally Sylvie wants to finish the job while Loki likes the idea of keeping things the same.

They both have merit of course but ultimately I think Sylvie’s on the right track. You don’t have to murder Kang but definitely you should dismantle the TVA or assume control in a new way. Wiping out people’s lives and brainwashing them can’t be the answer. There has to be a better way and at least this forces the issue. The final fight with Loki and Sylvie is pretty cool even if you know how it’s going to play out. Once you let emotions get to the top, you’ve already lost.

So in the ending, the war of the Kangs starts up again and a different one claimed victory this time. So, Loki retained his memories (Presumably Sylvie will keep hers as well) but everyone has been reset to the new timeline. Here’s the interesting part, the war has already ended since it takes place at the end of time like the last one and then scales back. So the reason the rest of the Marvel universe might not notice is they would have all been reset already. Perhaps Scarlet Witch and Dr. Strange would notice and perhaps not. The universe has already been reset in the past after all.

So I’m not really sure what Loki can possibly do in Season 2 since everything is already over. Perhaps he can convince Sylvie to murder the next Kang but based on the show’s logic, he would need to allow this since he would foresee it coming. In a way the show has probably written itself into a corner here. Kang is all powerful and he has already won in this universe. There are statues of him and the TVA is alive and well. No matter what Loki does, the universe has already been completely changed. You would need something crazy to stop Kang and change the universe, but again…Kang would know about it. That’s the tough thing with time travelers, they already know the future.

Still, I am looking forward to seeing how this plays out of course. It is a pretty unique concept to have battles across space and time since they’re already over before you were even born. It’s a fun concept to play around with in your head. It made for a really exciting ending to be sure. I’m much happier to see Kang at the top then the lizard creatures that turned out to just be a façade in the end.

As for the actual twist behind being erased, honestly I’d prefer if that just wasn’t a thing. It turns out that when you’re erased you fall into a desert land where a giant being just eats you. It takes the power of several Lokis to stop this long enough to escape. I’m not sure I buy this creature being able to destroy too many more powerful fighters but maybe Kang got lucky and only fairly weak ones ever caused another Kang to appear.

My main issue with the whole erasure plot twist is it just feels unnecessary. Why not just have the characters actually get blown away when they’re erased? I don’t see why you would need to send them somewhere and honestly blowing them up would be simpler for the TVA. Less variables and loose ends to worry about. Your target is just gone for eternity and you now have nothing to worry about. It was fun seeing the other Lokis though.

One of them even points out how using a knife is not as practical as general energy bolts. There was also a long standing fan theory that Loki escaped from Thanos with an illusion so those fans will feel vindicated here. Of course it was a different incarnation of Loki but it does show the strategy was feasible. Presumably you could even make the case that perhaps the main Loki did this trick as well and we just wouldn’t know until the future pops up. It seems unlikely though so I wouldn’t hold your hopes out for that.

The battle royale between them was fun as well. I would have liked to have had more cool action scenes like that. I do think the show had the proper balance between action and comedy though. Each episode was sure to get you some good laughs and treat you to fun action scenes. I wish Loki had thought of a better way to dodge or defend himself in the Sif situation but it was intense to see him get beaten up so many times. Throw in the cool time travel concepts and that’s a wrap. The show was a complete experience. I also like the TVA as well. I may not take them seriously as an organization because they seem far too weak but considering that they’re really just a front for Kang messing with everyone, it starts to add up quite nicely.

Overall, Loki was a pretty fun show. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how season 2 goes. I hope Loki is ready to focus on the task at hand and isn’t moping about romance though. That would put a damper on his spirits in season 2. He’s definitely at his best when he’s being overconfident and smug about everything. It’s what makes him a really enjoyable character so you need to keep that in. There’s still a lot of places you can go with the plot even if I think it will be constrained in other areas. Loki’s probably going to need a whole lot of plot armor if he wants to get through this which is pretty unavoidable when time travel is involved anyway. We’ll see if the “What If” show coming up can match this one.

Overall 7/10

Dumbo (2019) Review


Dumbo is certainly a classic from the old days of Disney. I’m sure just about everyone is familiar at least with the concept of the character so a remake definitely had the deck stacked against it. Ultimately it’s a fun remake and it is quite different from the original which helps it stand out. That being said, it doesn’t quite have the charm of the original as it cuts out all of the more fantastical elements to make this a more grounded experience.

The movie starts with things looking hopeless for the heroes as Holt arrives back home from being in the army only to find that things are in disarray. His wife died and the circus they belong to has fallen under tough times. Holt lost an arm and his kids are also not doing so well as they have stopped enjoying their youth. Then the owner of the circus, Max ended up buying an Elephant with a kid but the kid has huge ears and is the iconic Dumbo. There are no refunds but Dumbo wows the audience with his flying. Are things finally on the up and up for the heroes or is the powerful Mr. Vandevere about to put an end to this?

Dumbo is a fairly light hearted film at its core but it does get serious at times like in the intro. Most of the characters outside of the main ones aren’t the nicest folks as seen with how they treat Dumbo and the others. They tend to meet rather intense ends though which was good to see since picking on Dumbo is quite mean spirited.

Dumbo is a fun character although he is always very nervous. You’d like to see Dumbo take charge and just start running around the place after a little bit but it’s not really until the film is ending that he finally gets brave. If we ever get a sequel then I like to think he will be able to use his new experience flying to become a true hero to the rest of the elephants. In a way he can be their champion.

As the main character, Holt does well. He struggles with some self doubt at times but for the most part I thought he handled the situations in stride. It’s not as if it’s easy to adjust to only having one arm but you won’t see him complain about it even once during the film. The most difficult part is really connecting with his two kids and that’s not something he is really able to do for most of the film. He doesn’t have quite as strong an attachment to Dumbo and mostly he’s focused on just trying to learn a new act.

So I liked him well enough but the only time I got a little nervous was when the film introduced Colette and started dancing around making that a potential romance subplot. That would have been horrible considering that his wife just died so this would be moving on way too quickly. Fortunately the film never really goes in that direction and so I like to think they remained as good friends. I’ll give the film a lot of credit for showing some restraint here since that can be pretty rare in these things.

Colette was a fun heroine as well. Initially when she appears in a crazy getup with Vandevere you sort of figure she’s going to be an antagonist as well. One of those villains who is quite smug about being rich but her character ends up being a lot more complex than that which was appreciated. She had a good arc and did try her best performing along with Dumbo. It was an unexpected character change after the initial scenes but a welcome one to be sure. They even had a team up near the end against Vandevere.

Vandevere certainly works as the main villain as well. The guy just wants as much money as possible and will do whatever he can to accomplish this goal. Max was a little naive to really think that partnering with this guy would be such a good idea. Particularly since the circus had been doing well. Vandevere certainly panics a lot towards the end so you can definitely say that plot line was resolved in a satisfying way.

As for the two kids Joe and Milly, I wouldn’t say they were all that good here. Even if they helped give a positive connotation to the word “Dumbo” I’m not sure about calling the elephant that. Seems like it would just be traumatic right? They (Milly in particular) do a good job of training Dumbo at least and are the ones who form a good bond with him but if anything I think that role could have been given to Holt. The issue with the kids is that they aren’t really ready to take on opponents like Vandevere.

They mean well but they don’t know how to banter yet and tend to say things at the wrong time which puts the other characters in a pickle. Finally you have Max who made for a fun captain. He brings in a lot of the humor type scenes and is fairly over the top as you would expect. The guy always wants to be on the winning side so if something earns money then he loves it. If not then don’t expect him to be a happy camper. At the end of the day he does step up though.

So by and large it’s a fun story. It’s one that feels considerably different from the original Dumbo movie but the story is solid all the same. The effects look nice enough but what really stands out here is the soundtrack. The movie has a lot of themes like something out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films or even Spider-Man 3. The themes have a very epic feel to them which may not always match the scenes but sound epic under any context. It was very surprising to see this film have such a great soundtrack but it absolutely amped up the experience. Dumbo’s writing was also good so that helps round things out nicely as well.

Overall, Dumbo is a good remake of the original. It really hits on the important aspects of the movie such as having a solid cast of characters and flowing pretty well. You won’t be bored here and while Dumbo gets bullied, the film doesn’t take it too far which is good. It would be annoying if Dumbo had to go through a lot. Like for instance there is one scene where it looks like the clowns are going to throw water on Dumbo which would have been awful but fortunately they didn’t do that as it was a different act. It’s little things like that which help the film from going too far. Mix in the great soundtrack and you’ve got a pretty solid movie here.

Overall 7/10

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Review


Marvel is keeping it going with a second live action show connected to the movies. Following up on WandaVision this one is more of a down to Earth story with two characters still trying to move on after Cap seemingly died or at the very least is super old right now. Personally I’m in the “he’s dead” camp myself but you never know when he might pop out to mess with everyone. This one’s a good show and I would put it above the WandaVision show. As it all takes place in the modern day you can expect a lot of setup for future events.

The show starts with showing us where the two characters are at. Falcon is in a rough spot financially since being an Avenger and a top ranking government agent doesn’t pay very well. (I still have major issues believing this by the way. There’s absolutely no way the government could let this happen. Even without Tony there should be some way he should have a lot of money right now since being a free lance government worker pays really well and with the Avengers press and such that should add up.) He and his sister may even have to sell their boat which is causing a lot of tension between them. Surely Falcon can find a way to get past this but it’s going to be difficult.

Meanwhile the Winter Soldier is trying to deal with his guilt of murdering so many people back when he was a Hydra agent. He is going to mandatory counseling to deal with this and has been working as a vigilante to try and commit a lot of good deeds to overwhelm the negative ones. It hasn’t stopped his nightmares though and he needs something big to take his mind off of things.

Well, they’re in luck. A terrorist organization known as the Flag Smashers have popped up. They go around burning buildings and destroying property to realize their goal of “One People One World” Effectively, they are saying that the world was better during the 5 years when everyone was blinked out of existence and they want everyone to go back to that time. They are led by Karli, a super soldier who is willing to do whatever it takes to get this mission accomplished. Sam and Bucky are going to need to unite forces to stop her.

Right off the bat it was nice to see some pseudo Avengers action here. One of the highlight battles was definitely when they engage the Flagsmashers on the train and get some assistance from the new Captain America, John Walker and his partner. With 4 on 4 effectively you figure the heroes would win but they still get rolled up like a burrito. It just goes to show that they are still lacking that power hitter to win the day but it was a well balanced fight that went back and forth.

All of the battle scenes here are on point. There’s a lot of good choreography throughout. That said, Falcon and John feel incredibly outmatched here since they are normal humans dealing with super soldiers. They should be getting rolled every time they try to fight because the gap is just too huge at this point. Especially as in later films we’ve seen more of what the super soldier serum could really do for Cap. It’s not a level of power that you can easily match.

The show only lasts for 6 episodes but it gets to accomplish a whole lot within that time such as plot setups for the future and different developments that will be relevant to the films coming up. One character who was fleshed out really well here was John. I rather liked the guy and thought that Sam and Bucky were way too harsh on the guy. He really was just trying to help initially but all they had to offer him were insults and a bad attitude. You can see where his character arc is going from there from the start though.

It’s a classic Ironwood kind of path although handled with a lot more subtlety. By the end you can’t even say John is fully evil or anything. The fact that his emotions run away with him is incredibly dangerous though so he’s likely going to end up more like Punisher than the actual Captain America. Still, I look forward to seeing more of him. He’s a versatile fighter who was usually fighting against bad odds and still did well.

His 2 on 1 fight against the other heroes was impressive, so impressive that you could make the case he would have beaten either one of them 1 on 1. That would scale him to possibly being even a little stronger than Steve who was initially getting overpowered by Bucky at times although I suppose since then he had surpassed him. John does have a whole lot of combat experience though so it makes sense. To him the whole thing must feel unfair as two vigilantes are trying to take away the shield he got from the government. Mix that in with the other events from that day and he had a really rough time of it.

On the government crowd we also have Sharon who finally gets to appear in the universe again after being gone for a long while. She’s a fun character and definitely doesn’t seem to have an issue with murdering her opponents though. She has managed to survive for a long while on her own which has definitely had an effect on how she sees things. Sharon will be an interesting character to keep an eye on.

Zemo also gets a big role here. Yes, I do think the heroes busting him free as part of the plan was an extremely risky plan that could have easily backfired. I disagreed with it from the start mainly because of how many innocent people would and probably die die during the escape. It’s glossed over but they had to free a ton of prisoners to keep the guards busy and we see a lot of guards getting knocked out during the chaos. Considering that all of these villains were incredibly dangerous like Zemo, I doubt they would be taking prisoners.

So the benefits didn’t outweigh the dangers there. At that point you could easily be rooting against the heroes for the rest of the show and I wouldn’t blame you. It was pretty shocking how dubious a decision that was. Zemo’s a fun guy though. He’s certainly as villainous as ever but he does agree that the Flagsmashers are a big concern since the guy really doesn’t like the super soldier serum. He’ll be an ally at least for a little while but he’s not someone you can turn your back on.

Joaquin is Falcon’s main army contact and the guy does pretty well for himself. He certainly isn’t someone who is ready to fight with a bunch of super soldiers but he does well when needed and finds out a lot of info. Then there’s Falcon’s sister who is fun enough. She helps to keep him grounded and is doing what she can to stay afloat.

Now let’s look at the two main characters and the main villain. Falcon leads the title card so as you can imagine he is effectively the main character here. A big part of the story is his character development from giving away the shield to ultimately deciding to take on the mantle. You’ve probably seen certain shots from the final episode between the film announcement and the big deal it got but he will certainly be entering a new status quo going forward.

I would like for Falcon to get a super soldier serum of his own just because I don’t think it’s possible to compete for long without powers but maybe that is coming up. He’s a good character here and there’s a lot of nice banter with Bucky. Falcon does fumble the ball towards the end though with his speech about how Karli wasn’t a terrorist. You can understand the idea behind this and not rushing to conclusions, but he shouldn’t have used her as an example.

Let’s face facts here, she blew up several buildings that still had innocents inside, she was going to blow up a bus of government officials to send a message and she was just getting started. She was getting more and more extreme throughout the show so calling her a terrorist is fair. His main comeback seemed to be that she had a good message but your intentions and goals don’t matter when you cross a certain line.

After all, there are tons of villains who had goals that people may even agree with but the methods are what nullify them. The universe is over populated so you may agree with Thanos on reducing it, just not by destroying people. Adam Taurus fought to help give the Faunus equal rights which everyone agreed with but he wanted to do that by murdering people so it voided the cause. It’s the same thing with Karli. Maybe they can think of a way to make the world better but it doesn’t change the fact that she and her Flagsmashers were absolutely 100% terrorists.

So I think Falcon got caught up in his feelings a bit there with a character who had just threatened to murder his sister an episode ago but otherwise he was a fun lead. It’ll be good to see how he handles the mantle in the next season. Meanwhile Bucky is definitely the more down to Earth guy in the group. I would say it seems like he was nerfed quite a bit to make sure he wouldn’t just outshine the rest of the cast though. Based on how well he fought Captain America he should absolutely be dominating these Flagsmashers. Unless it’s 4 to 1 or something he just has way better combat experience and his arm is on point. There’s a 1 on 1 fight where it’s fairly even near the end and I feel like Bucky should waste the guy.

On a personality level though Bucky is finally getting past his old feelings of guilt so I think we’ll see a more confident version of him if we get a season 2. It’s no secret that I’ve never been a Bucky fan in just about any incarnation but he’s not bad here. At least I’m glad we don’t have to deal with the mind control and such anymore. Now he works pretty well as an anti-hero and the banter with him and Falcon is always a positive. His super rushed romance that doesn’t go anywhere could have been skipped though.

Finally we have Karli. In case you couldn’t guess, I was not a big fan of hers. In part it’s because I don’t exactly see her group having any tangible ways to make the world a better place. Okay, she’s upset that half the world came back and destroyed the world unity that people had. Since she can’t destroy half of the population to bring things back to normal (Although I wonder if that was the plan pre-Covid. If it was, then that changes everything) how does she propose the world make this situation work? She doesn’t offer any solutions throughout the whole show.

Presumably she tried peaceful options earlier based on her dialogue but we never even learn what her proposal is. She always goes right to burning buildings and beating people up so there isn’t even any kind of agenda that you can get behind. Ultimately that’s why I can’t get behind Karli because her group didn’t seem to even have a tangible goal.

There’s also a guest star that shows up here but I won’t go into that here as it’s probably the first guest star from one of these shows that I didn’t even know was in it. So that was a nice surprise and her role is pretty good. She gets to show off her skills rather quickly. Including cameos and guest appearances like this also helps to cement this as something really in the universe which is always nice to see.

As always Marvel delivers with a lot of impressive effects here. The show does really feel like you’re watching an extended movie which is always impressive. TV Shows have certainly come a very long way from how they used to be. It probably helps that this is a mini series. I also like how the events seem really important to the movies. With a show like Agents of Shield no matter how many times they may say it was canon or the show would have references, you suspected that nothing big would ever happen because the execs would worry that people wouldn’t watch it. Sure enough, Shield is basically not cannon to the extent that nothing there mattered if you just watch the movies. While the movies could somehow back out of the events for WandaVision and this show, I find that to be 99% unlikely. There just seems like no way it would be possible. The events here are massive which is nice to see.

Overall, Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a pretty good show. We have a solid cast of characters and a lot of interesting plots going on. I do think the two heroes did really overstep their boundaries as heroes and acted like vigilantes quite a bit. Not a problem as I rather enjoy vigilantes but it’s never really portrayed that way which is odd. You’d think they would be full fugitives by the end of the film no matter what results they got. I particularly enjoyed John Walker’s character arc as he tried to use the mantle well and be the best hero he could be. Whenever I see him swinging Cap’s shield around I do wonder how people don’t straight up get murdered though. Never forget that the shield is made up of Vibranium. You feel like a single shot would utterly shatter someone. I think this show has a better chance of getting a season 2 compared to WandaVision but at the same time the odds are still small since this will probably continue on into the movies. If you haven’t seen this show yet then I would definitely recommend checking it out.

Overall 7/10

The Lion King (2019) Review


Time to look at the modern remake to the original Lion King. The original is definitely a classic with one of the most impactful deaths at the time. I don’t think anyone ever truly forgets Mufasa. Well, this remake is mostly beat for beat although it does add a new subplot of sorts which I liked. In the end it isn’t able to do anything as effectively as the original though and does lose the head to head. As a stand alone film it is good though.

The movie starts with Simba finally being born. His father Mufasa is the strongest Lion in the land and resides as a King who was restored order to the world. The Hyenas don’t like this but everyone else enjoys the planet as it is. Animal Land would likely point out that this happiness cannot be sustained as even Simba points out that they have to eat their friends at times since the Lions are meat eaters. Mufasa explains they try not too eat too often like that though. Well, Mufasa’s brother Scar is not happy about this. He wants to be King and it’s implied he even liked the Queen but lost out. Well, he quickly murders Mufasa and tricks Simba into running away. Can Simba return to reclaim the throne or is it game over for him?

I suppose Mufasa’s role is rather small in the grand scheme of things but he’s always a fun character. One thing I really like about him is the amount of raw power he has at his disposal. He takes on a whole squad of Hyenas and is always ready. It’s a shame that he had to die here since the land had a bright future under him. I would enjoy an alternate reality path where we see what would happen if he stayed as King. That said, I do think he was a little too lenient on Scar the whole time. Ignoring obvious threats and such. I think at the very least he should have warned Simba a little more.

A good chunk of the film is the journey as Simba finds out what it is like to live in the wild. Pumbaa and Timon help him with this even if their advice isn’t always very helpful. They believe that life is meaningless which is…rather a depressing outlook when you think about it. They have a lot of fun scenes though and do have Simba’s back. Simba may have started out as being rather gullible and such but by the end of the film he’s definitely improved. I can see him being a fun character in the second film. I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan in this one.

The best character in this film has to be Zazu. You really feel for the guy the whole time because he’s trying his best to uphold the rules and keep everyone on the straight and narrow. At the end of the day the issue is that everyone rebels against him. Additionally Zazu’s really just a little bird when you think about it so it’s not like he can fight. That makes him even more brave. Especially when you have someone like Scar around. Scar’s a solid villain as well. He’s got a plan and knows how to execute it. The whole thing is handled really well as shown by how easily he took over without firing a shot. Scar has charisma even if he lacks brute power.

Then you have Nala who is Simba’s best friend. She didn’t get a big role in the original after finding Simba so that’s why I liked the inclusion of a Hyene leader with an actual personality. They got to go at it during the climax of the film and of course I won’t turn down an extra fight. It was a nice way to wrap things up. Nala’s also a solid character since she was pro actively trying to save the Lions the whole time. In general the climax is a lot of fun with solid action and a dramatic backdrop. It’s hard to really top that.

One thing I couldn’t help but think about though was why there weren’t really any other Male lions in the pack. Part of why Scar took over so easily is because there was nobody to resist him but why was that the case? If there had even been a handful of guys there they should have been able to take down Scar and his obvious rebellion. In fact, based on how few lions were around it seems to be like the Hyenas should have easily invaded long ago. Their numbers are far greater than the Lions and they could just pick them off at any time. there is a strength gap of course but nothing too crazy there either. I dunno, but it felt noticeable.

The graphics are definitely top notch. You could really think that this was live action at times which is really impressive. In terms of realism it’s hard to really say that any film can top this one. It helps that there are no humans around of course but it’s super impressive no matter how you slice it. Unfortunately it’s still not able to beat the original film in this category which came out over a decade ago. The reason being that realism will usually be crushed by an animation style that just goes all in. The original film has more color and life to it. I still remember the comparison videos popping up everywhere and it is true that the original just feels a lot more exciting and looks sharper. It’s to be expected since it was hand drawn but if you don’t compare this to the original then you should still be able to appreciate the look.

I wouldn’t say any of the songs in particular stand out to me but they’re solid enough. The songs have a nice up beat flavor to them and there’s always something happening in the background to pay attention to. As for the fact that the film revolves around animals fighting each other, the film had a good amount of restraint with not letting this go too far. You can still expect some of course and we even have a scene where Scar is eating an animal while subtly threatening the lions which is pretty intense. That was probably the most noteworthy scene to me. In part because you can totally cut it out and nothing changes. So this aspect doesn’t hurt the film as much as it potentially could have but I think it could have jumped another star otherwise.

Overall, The Lion King (2019) is a good remake. It’s fairly similar to the original one with the extra fight at the end being the only big change I would say. Even then calling it a “big” change is probably an exaggeration to be honest since it’s not like it affects a whole lot. If you haven’t seen the original or you saw it a long time ago and want a fresh version then this is a good one to check out. Otherwise there just isn’t any reason to recommend this over the original so I would say to just go and watch that one instead. It’s always the risk with remakes. If the original one was better then you may as well just watch it again instead of seeing the new version.

Overall 6/10

The Hunchback of Notre Dame Review


The Hunchback of Notre Dame is definitely quite a bit darker than your average Disney film. Someone breaks their neck in the opening scene and from there it only gets darker. The movie does a good job of balancing this out though so it stays intense without going into super gritty territory. I wouldn’t say that it’s quite on the level of something like Frozen but this is a very good film. I thought it had one of the most memorable songs from the villain which definitely mixed in well with the flames everywhere. If you want a very atmospheric title then this is the one for you.

The movie starts with Claude going around murdering people as per usual. He manages to destroy a mother and goes for the child when a member of the Church shows up. He scares Claude into having the boy adopted instead. This boy would grow up to be known as Quasimodo. His body is quite deformed and so Claude has decided to hide him away in the church for all eternity. The Church doesn’t seem to have any qualms with this and Quasi was brainwashed as he was growing up to never leave the room. Still, he hopes to leave someday to experience life outside of the walls. One day he gets his chance and sneaks out. There he meets a dancer named Esmeralda and they become quick friends. Can Quasimodo keep this secret away from Claude? Additionally, Quasi may have to choose a side soon because Claude has decided to ramp up his efforts to murder all of the gypsies in the land.

The plot of having the villain trap and trick the hero is definitely a Disney classic. It wasn’t so long ago that I saw Tangled with a very similar premise. The idea is to manipulate the hero right away so that he just doesn’t know any better. I would argue that Claude is a little less obvious than the villain from Tangled but of course it would still be nice if Quasimodo has escaped earlier on to get into the spotlight. It doesn’t help that in his case the townsfolk probably will be pretty mean to him since they’re never happy to have someone who looks different. There’s a whole contest in the town about making fun of people. It’s not the nicest town so in some ways it’s not like Claude was totally lying about it, but of course we all know that his intent wasn’t exactly just. He knew exactly what he was doing the whole time.

As a main character Quasimodo’s not bad. He certainly means well and is a pretty nice guy. Things don’t always work out super well for him but he’s earnest. He does help Esmeralda when things get tough and at the end he’s pretty understanding. I wouldn’t call him one of the better characters, but he’s not bad. Then you have Esmeralda who is a pretty strong heroine. She does a good job of rebelling against Claude and making a mockery of his events. In some ways she’s a lot like Zorro as she uses her athletics to get the better of her opponents. The fact that she can actively fight is definitely very good and so she’s a standout character here.

Next up is Phoebus and he is a worthy counterpart to Esmeralda. He’s a soldier in the army who wants to do his best but gradually sees more and more how corrupt the whole thing is. Eventually he has enough of this. Once he turns away the guy never looks back and was definitely crucial in helping one of the families from a burning house. He does let his guard down at times but fights rather well. There are a few supporting characters like various gargoyles flying around but I wouldn’t say any of them were particularly entertaining. I understand why they’re around though as Quasimodo’s scenes may not have held up as well without them. He needs someone to talk to after all. I’d also say I was less than impressed with the main priest. He talks tough but ultimately doesn’t really stand against Claude.

As the main villain Claude’s definitely not one of the better ones. He reminds me a whole lot of Jafar. He’s more interested in scoring the main villain than in something more ambitious like taking over the country. He already has great influence within the town even though he doesn’t like the people. He just wants to eliminate the Gypsies at all costs even though he can’t decipher his own feelings. It’s part of what makes the Hellfire song pretty intense though. The villain songs tend to be quite memorable and this one is no different. It has some of the best background visuals I’ve seen in a song since Aladdin and there’s always something going on. So while I can’t take Claude seriously as a villain, at least he has that going for him.

In general the animation is quite striking and is easily one of the best looking Disney films. I dare say it even looks better than some of the ones that would come afterwards like Frozen, Big Hero 6, or Tangled. The colors are very sharp and all of the movement is on point. It may even be the best looking Disney animated film when I think about it. The songs from the Gargoyles don’t really rank but the villain song alone puts the soundtrack on the map as well. The writing is on point and so the film succeeded in all of the key areas. As I mentioned, the film doesn’t hold back on being quite serious as well. I was not expecting the opening scene to be quite so sinister and it sets up some tension right away as Claude is willing to do whatever it takes to win.

There is some romance in the film which I admit was not handled all that well but I was glad there was no drama with Quasimodo. He is satisfied being a good friend which is important. For Esmeralda and Phoebus, they only just met so the whole thing seems rather rushed. I think you could have axed that plot and it wouldn’t have really hurt the film at all. You could use the extra scenes to maybe show the Priest actually fighting back against Claude. That would have looked really good for him at least.

Overall, The Hunchback of Note Dame is a solid film. The movie feels very high quality throughout and the pacing is quick. The movie definitely goes all in on making Quasimodo deformed to the point where he may be a little harder to look at compared to other main characters but does underscore that he’s a good guy. The narrative irony being that the main townsfolk are the real monsters here as they eagerly go about trying to put others beneath them. The town seems very mean spirited in general so it’s good that there are some heroes around. Phoebus and Esmeralda will likely go about making the town a whole lot more hospitable in the future. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the sequel since by now things should be looking up. I suppose there are probably still enough corrupt people running around to keep on messing things up though. It’s hard to change the whole place in a day.

Overall 7/10

Tron Legacy Review


It’s time to look at the sequel to the original Tron. I remember how impressed I was when I first saw this title. The effects just looked flawless and the film as a whole really had a great high energy feel thrown in. The characters were cool and this really felt like the series was completely on the right track. It’s a shame that the third one is taking so long to come out. Well, the film definitely holds up and is just as great as I remembered it to be. It’s certainly underratted.

The movie starts by explaining that Kevin has vanished and so his son Sam had to grow up without him for a long while. Sam is now the chief for the company but he just doesn’t really see the point. He wastes his days away doing nothing until one day Alan shows up and tells Sam that he received a buzz from Kevin’s pager. Sam heads to the arcade and is blasted into the grid. There he meets up with a program named Clu who rules the Grid with an iron fist. Kevin has been exiled to the wastelands and resides with another program named Quorra. Quorra helps Sam escape and now they must think of a plan to get out of here. The main issue is that the heroes are completely outnumbered here.

Things tend to happen very quickly here which is always nice. There is no dead time here. The heroes are on the clock and have to do what they can. The film shows right away how much the Grid has changed since the first film. The “graphics” have gotten a lot better so the programs now look like people. Time travels differently in the system so it makes sense that everything has been updated. We now have more action scenes on the Lightcycles and disc throwing games. Those are still a lot of fun and I wish we could get more games with that kind of gameplay. It’s one thing I really liked about the Tron Evolution video game back in the day. It’s fun to watch as well and is just a fun way to race.

The hand to hand action scenes are also on point. We see one flashback where Tron was taking on a lot of opponents this way. I do question how he was overpowered so easily with the final opponent though. That guy didn’t seem so skilled. Of course I blame Kevin more since the guy didn’t do anything to help that time. He was okay with just watching the whole time which was definitely no good. In the present we get a lot of action scenes like this as well such as in Zuse’s bar. That was a fun action scene for sure and the mysterious right hand man of Clu always provides some good action.

As I already mentioned the film just looks great as well. The Grid really stands out in every scene it is in. Any scene in the Grid is bound to be a good one and that’s definitely really good if you ask me. Whenever I talk about films needing to have interesting backgrounds to help the story along, this is exactly what I am talking about. Legacy is ahead of its time in many ways to the point where it’s hard to see many other films topping this one. The outfits just hold up so well and everything about the film still feels futuristic even many years later. The writing is also on point here as we have a solid cast of characters.

Sam is the lead this time around and he’s defintiely solid. It’s easy to see why he has decided to goof off nowadays since with his Dad missing he doesn’t see much of a point in anything. It all just happened too suddenly for him. In the Grid he quickly gets caught up to speed and comes up with some plans. I’m glad that he wasn’t as passive as Kevin was with the ideas. Sam just wants to save the day and he’s ready to take some risks to do it. Kevin is a far cry from his older self. The whole battle with Clu just broke him I guess. He’s now quite scared of going back in to fight. He should also be ashamed due to the fact that if he had helped Tron out in the past then none of this would have happened in the first place. His Star Wars esque abilities are fun to see though.

Tron is definitely a great character even if we don’t see him a whole lot. We learn what happened to him since the first film and it makes for a great role. He’s still the definitive character in the series to be sure. I don’t see any of the other characters really coming close to matching him. At the end of the day Tron is just a really impressive character and the best fighter in the series. It’s the reason why he is known as the hero of the grid. Then you have another hero in Quorra. She’s definitely good and has several pivotal moments in the series. Quorra is a lot bolder than Kevin and certainly wants to help out even if she isn’t quite as aggressive as Sam. She makes up for this with her superior fighting abilities though. She certainly gives the villains the work on several occasions even when she is outnumbered. Without her Sam would have definitely been in trouble several times here.

For the villains I’d say that we really have Clu as the main one. He shows up rather quickly and gets involved in the action personally. Right away that’s when I knew he would be a good villain. Good villains aren’t afraid to get into the ring themselves. It’s what separates the truly feared leaders from the guys who just sit in the chair. I was very satisfied with his portrayal and his reason for fighting was also a good one. He saw some flaws in the world and was trying to fix them. At the end of the day isn’t that exactly what you want the program to do? The only miscalculation was that the program would be so effective in its mission but who could have predicted that right?

Then you have Zuse who definitely likes having fun with the case. He’s not the smartest character in the film though. The guy acts like he is intelligent sure, but that’s not really enough when his actions are so weak. When you enter into a deal with the main villain you should always make sure you have some kind of leverage or a backup plan. He had neither but it did make for a cool visual and a fun scene in general. Clu’s right hand man is pretty great. He’s a man of few words but really delivers on the action scenes and gets a great arc/final scene.

Yeah there’s definitely a lot to like here. The soundtrack is also pretty stellar with some 80s type songs spread into the early part of the film as a tribute to the original. In some ways it embraced the era more than the first film did. Don’t expect to see the present timeline much since most of the film takes place in the game. That’s definitely okay with me though. The game is where all of the interesting things are going on so that’s really what I’m interested in seeing and it delivers. I sort of thought the board would have a bigger role or at least the main one who seemed to be leading the company down a corrupt path again. Maybe that’s something for the third film.

Overall, Legacy is definitely a great follow up to the original Tron film. It’s got great action, characters, a solid plot, solid soundtrack, etc. It really manages to get just about everything correct which is definitely good. I highly recommend checking this film out. It takes place far enough after the first film where you don’t need to see it to understand what is going on, but it does help you recognize the various Easter eggs here and there. It was fun to see this one have so many tributes to the first. Well, supposedly the third film is finally coming out sort of soon so I hope it’s able to maintain this level of quality. It’s definitely a tough act to follow.

Overall 8/10

Tron Review


It’s time to take a look at the original Tron that came out a long while ago. It’s definitely always fun to have a Sci-fi adventure where you fall into a video game. There have been numerous series about this over the years and that’s because there’s just so much potential there. This is a solid film that has aged pretty well. Flynn’s still a great main character and I like the effects/atmosphere.

The movie starts by introducing us to the legendary company ENCOM. It’s led by Dillinger who got to the top by stealing all of Kevin’s ideas and making millions off of them. Unfortunately Kevin was unable to prove that he created them and so he had to settle for running an arcade. Since then Kevin has decided to devote his life to breaking into the system and finding the evidence. His time to shine happens when Alan and Lora pay him a visit to let him know that the Master Control Program is on to him. Kevin decides to try and free Tron but the program is one step ahead of him and launches the hero into the game. Can Kevin get back out of the system or is it too late?

The Grid is definitely a fun world to be stuck in. It may be pretty dangerous but playing through games like the Lightcycle or the disc throwing definitely looks like it would be a lot of fun if you ask me. The world still looks really good even when watching in 2020. The good programs are definitely on the losing side, but at least they have Tron around to help out. He’s easily the most powerful good program out there. He makes for some good banter with Kevin and the third member of their party.

In general Kevin’s just a fun character to have around. I like his complete confidence which you see even in his very first appearance. The guy isn’t even remotely afraid of going up against the MCP and has fun messing with the villain when he first hops onto the computer. Naturally he is a little less powerful once he is in the game but still does his best. The guy is always ready for the next move. Then you have Tron who is very serious the whole time. He’s really just about completing his mission no matter what and he must have been stuck in this game for a long time. They mention that time works differently in the game world so for all we know he’s been here for years or something which is crazy to think about. He may not get as big a role as you might think but he’s definitely very memorable.

Alan’s a good red herring here since you originally feel like he will be one of the main characters then he vanishes after the intro. He was cool while he was around though. Maybe not the most memorable but he was definitely on board with Lora’s plan right away. The film throws in some slight romance in both worlds but neither one really goes anywhere. I do think Yori going with both characters was a bit unneeded though. I don’t really see what the point of those moments were. Probably just to squeeze a bit of romance in.

Dillinger made for a pretty fun villain. I’m always ready for those CEO types. He doesn’t do a whole lot to make himself a memorable villain compared to other similar figures but is still a solid addition to the cast. The Master Control Program is a little less notable. I liked the presence he brought to the film for the most part but it was a little harder for me to take the design seriously. He reminded me a bit of Modok or the Kree intelligence. Giving him a bit of a more compact form to fight with the heroes would have been pretty neat.

One of the big strengths of Tron is how great the cybernetic world is. This is the kind of world you could definitely see yourself getting stuck in and not mind so much. It’s all pretty interesting. The graphics/effects are on point and the soundtrack is good. It’s definitely one of the first big “stuck in a video game” movies out there and handles the genre quite well. Mix that in with quality writing and you’ve definitely got a winning combo here.

Now, if I nitpick a bit here, I have to question why the Master Control Program doesn’t take a more aggressive approach here. It should have been easy for him to stop Tron and friends many times before they got so far away. He controls the sector and every program in it. We saw that when he launched the tanks they were able to deal a lot of damage. Why not make sure that the heroes he blasted were actually dead? Crushing the programs there would have been huge and you’d think he could feel their presence the whole time. I suppose the easy answer to all of this is just plain arrogance though and I suppose you can’t really argue with that. At the end of the day he just thought that nothing the heroes did could really matter and that led to his downfall.

Overall, Tron is definitely a solid film worth checking out. The effects are solid and it has good writing and pacing throughout. The character cast is definitely solid and there’s really a lot to enjoy here. It was a good way to start off the series and of course Legacy would then take it to the next level. Watching both back to back is a good way to really see all the connections and how much the Grid has evolved. The themes of A.I. growing sentient are still pretty interesting since we get closer and closer to A.I. being able to reason. Ideally we won’t all be thrown into the grid though but if that should ever happen just make sure you have your gaming skills on point.

Overall 7/10

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days Review


After quite a while it’s time to look at the next Kingdom Hearts adventure. I enjoyed the 358 game quite a bit back in the day. The gameplay was definitely a bit simplified but it was all very smooth. The story was also pretty intense and it was interesting to see the organization’s side of things. Roxas as a tragic story right from the start since you know things aren’t going to end well for him. It’s easily the most underrated game in the series. The manga is a pretty solid adaption of this. I’d say that it goes for a bit of a lighter tone but all of the events still happen and we even get some extra development on Xion’s side.

The manga starts with Roxas joining the organization. He is a “Nobody” a shell of a person who died long ago. Nobodies don’t have souls and thus can’t feel human emotions although they can emulate them based on their life experiences. They don’t have memories of who they used to be although they will occasionally get flashes. The mission of the organization is to gather a lot of hearts to open up Kingdom Hearts. Once they do that the goal gets a little more vague but opening up the gate will take a while as it is. Roxas doesn’t feel one way or another about the goal, he just goes ahead and does it. Things change when he starts to become friends with Axel and Xion. He begins to see the organization’s true nature and wonders if he is really in the right place at all.

Of course it is a little difficult to betray an organization when they are all that you knew. Since Roxas has a difficult time with emotions he also isn’t sure how he should feel. One thing’s for sure though, Roxas does develop a real heart by the end of all this. His adventures and emotions are too real for that not to happen. Ultimately he does choose Xion over the organization which was the right call. He’s definitely a solid character for sure. It’s neck and neck between him and Sora for who the better lead is but of course Sora will appear a whole lot more during the franchise. Roxas’ role was brief in comparison, but memorable all the same.

I get the feeling that the author really liked Riku because he looks quite solid here. No complaints from me because I do think Riku is top tier. At this point in the series he has really become accustomed to using the powers of darkness so he even wears a blindfold to increase his abilities. In this series he was actually able to take on the vast majority of the organization members at the same time which is pretty impressive. He’s definitely a fighter who doesn’t do down easily. Roxas gave him a good fight but even this guy couldn’t win in the end. It’s nice to see the original characters looking so solid.

Part of why the struggle is pretty personal here is because both Riku and Roxas are fighting for good reasons. Roxas wanted to save Xion from her deadly fate. Xion’s death would result in Sora’s resurrection but not only does Roxas have no reason to allow this to happen, Xion’s his friend. He can’t just let her throw her life away. The scales are reversed with Riku since Sora is his best friend so he mainly just wants him back no matter the cost. At least they do give Xion the choice although it’s a very pressured one so it’s hard to say how much she got to influence this. Also, Sora’s soul is large enough where Roxas had to go eventually as well.

When you think about it the plot here is actually rather dark. Perhaps that’s why the manga tries to squeeze in a lot of lighter moments to help balance it out. Otherwise this could get rather grim pretty fast. Definitely makes for an engaging read the whole time though. The manga throws you a lot of hints about Xion and her fate from early on. The organization isn’t exactly subtle about it to the point where you think they probably could have hid their intentions a bit more from Roxas so he wouldn’t stand in their way. I’d have liked to see Roxas take down the whole organization which he maybe would have done if he escaped from Riku. I could definitely see him wanting revenge here.

As for Axel, I’m not a big fan of his. At the end of the day he stood down when it counted and his secrets played a large part in dooming Roxas. If he had been more open about what was going on then perhaps they would have been able to think of a plan to escape with. Axel’s decision to keep to himself was a poor one and it’s hard for his character to rebound from it. Xion also made a lot of bad calls. She also didn’t trust in her friends enough. If she talked to Roxas more then she could have had a better chance. I have more sympathy points for her though because she’s living with a ton of veiled threats against her. She also doesn’t want to get him into further trouble. Still not a great reason to keep secrets but it’s better than Axel’s. I always thought Xion was pretty fun and it’s too bad she couldn’t appear more.

The art is pretty solid. It’s not quite Shounen looking in the sense that you shouldn’t expect any big fight scenes here. Most of the time the fights are over in a bit or two even if they are serious battles. The series juggles comedy and action so the art also fluctuates based on that. At this point the artist is pretty experienced so the characters are all looking sharp and the style is refined. I’d like to see longer fight scenes at some point but that’s more of a writing decision as opposed to having to do with the art. From the cuts we get I think the fight scenes would work out pretty well.

The manga isn’t very long so you should blast through it pretty quickly. If anything I wouldn’t have minded a longer bit based on the final act. Once Roxas finally leaves the organization for good it’s one of the more intense moments in the series. His fight with Saix is an example of a fight that could have been extended. Roxas may be relatively new to the Keyblade game but since the manga takes place over the course of a year it’s possible he even has more experience than Sora now. I’m not sure how much time passed during the first two games. Either way my money would be on Roxas to take Saix out and that would be a really grand battle. The final chapters are intense either way so you better enjoy them.

I imagine it would be pretty interesting to start with 358. There are a lot of references to older events and such so while it would increase the mystery angle it also means you will have less reason to root for Sora and friends. It would probably up the tragic angle of the series. It’s always rare to get a video game about the villains so it can be interesting to see their side of things. Especially in a case like this where the organization is evil but the younger members don’t really know better. After all, as Nobodys they don’t have a heart or any emotions so it’s a slot tougher for them to choose between good and evil. At least Roxas and Xion proved that you can get past this and generate a real heart eventually.

Overall, Kingdom Hearts 358 is definitely a solid title and I’d recommend checking it out. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it beats the adaption for 2 or anything like that but like the game it makes for a pretty intense story. By the end of it you will feel like things are pretty unfair for the main characters. There really weren’t many options available to them and even the heroes wouldn’t try to save them. Makes it a little harder to get out of an evil organization when that’s the case. Roxas and Xion were really left to their own devices. I think if they could have convinced Axel to run away with them the 3 could have been ok for a while but at the same time they would spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulders so in a way it’s not like they would have been living on Cloud 9 or anything like that.

Overall 7/10

Tangled Review


It’s time to look at a pretty big Disney film from back in the day. Tangled may not have soared to quite the same heights as Frozen but it still made a name for itself in its own right. The tale of Rapunzel is definitely a classic to be sure so it’s nice to see a full fledged adaption. The movie has solid songs, strong writing, and pretty good animation so it’s a solid all around package. I’m definitely in the camp that says Frozen still wins the rivalry between the two but Tangled is certainly a solid film that doesn’t back down to anyone.

The movie starts by showing us the origin of Rapunzel. Her mother was gravely ill so the kingdom used the legendary flower to restore her health. This resulted in Rapunzel being born with incredible abilities. Her hair has the ability to heal injuries and even to dial a person’s age back. It must be used regularly though as it can only stall the age from occurring for so long. A lady named Gothel kidnaps Rapunzel one day and hides her in a tower not too far away from town. I do question to an extent how the kingdom never found her but realistically I suppose it is a long journey and you can’t catch everyone. Rapunzel grows up for many years trapped in the castle with Gothel who has tricked her into thinking that they are mother and daughter. One day a thief named Flynn tries to hide in the tower to avoid getting caught by the military and is promptly knocked out by Rapunzel. Since Gothel will never let Rapunzel go, the heroine has decided to force Flynn to escort her to the annual party in the kingdom. Flynn doesn’t want to do this but it’s not like he has much of a choice. Gothel will have to try and tear these two apart while keeping the facade up but it will be difficult.

You’ll recognize most of the usual story beats. The stories are all pretty popular so the goal is always to just execute the ideas well and I’d say that Tangled succeeds in this mission. As always there are a good amount of songs and the film is always doing something interesting visually so that you have something to watch while the songs are going on. That’s always low key been something Disney does way better than everyone else. Part of the fun in the live action Aladdin film was how many different special effects they could throw at you in a single song. You gotta admit, a lot of films don’t really go the extra mile there. There’s also so much you could do with Rapunzel’s hair that it would be a shame to miss the opportunity.

Rapunzel is a solid heroine. I like how independent she is and the fact that she knows self defense. She did actually take Flynn down for the count when he first appeared rather than panicking or anything of the sort. She also hatched a good plan and made herself a quality deal. Rapunzel’s hair having actual super powers is another feather in her cap so to speak. I suppose her powers merit more comparisons with Elsa and they are fairly close in how cool each character is. Rapunzel gets tricked perhaps 1 too many times but ultimately she makes the right move. I do have to question how she was taken out near the end of the film but I’ll assume it was a cheap attack.

Then we have her partner Flynn who is solid and gives us a lot of the comedic wit in the story. He’s certainly no hero when the film starts as he actively robs the capital. His overconfidence is also what leads him to get caught as he could have just stolen the crown but naturally had to make sure everyone knew he did it. Villains striving to get the credit they think they deserve is definitely nothing new and often sabotages them just as much as the heroes. He gets a solid character arc with Rapunzel though and it’s handled pretty well. One thing that will always elevate a film is good banter and this one certainly had that.

Gothel works as a solid villain. She may be a bit on the obvious side at times with how she doesn’t even pretend to be a nice mother to Rapunzel. I’m not sure what her rationale is, but it’s not unrealistic. I wouldn’t have minded a more nuanced take on her character but I think the film didn’t want to take a chance on her becoming sympathetic. At her core, Gothel is a petty thief who literally kidnapped a baby so that’s the end of that. She also earns extra points for actually stabbing someone. Gothel’s one of the more serious Disney villains we’ve seen. Maximus is the main animal character here and he’s definitely a lot of fun. The horse is incredibly determined to complete his mission of tracking down Flynn and you have to give him some major respect for following the thief for as long as he did. Maximus does a whole lot to complete this task and it’s really impressive. He was definitely a scene stealer if you ask me and the best character in the film. You just can’t top this guy.

With good writing and animation to back this film up it was definitely bound to be as good as it was. There’s really no weakpoints to the story and I would consider it to be one of Disney’s better ones. One of these days I ought to write an editorial ranking them all but there have been so many Disney princess stories that I’ll need to make sure I have them all straight. I’m still waiting for a big crossover film someday. They’d probably have to stick to adding maybe 6-10 in order to keep the story focused but I’d definitely be game for that.

Overall, Tangled is definitely a quality film and one worth watching. As always Disney has constructed a solid cast around Rapunzel and the film is enhanced by the solid song selection and good graphics. This is a nice story from start to finish with a good focus on the plot and solid pacing. Rapunzel herself may come across as a little slow on the uptake at times but since she has grown up in a super limited environment by a character who is known to be cunning then it does make a certain amount of sense. You can only do so much when put into a position like that. I’d definitely be up for a full sequel someday. There’s definitely more that you could do with this franchise.

Overall 7/10